I love candles and wax melts, but I hate it when there’s a little left in the bottom of a jar or the wax has lost it’s scent. I don’t want to just throw the wax away. If it’s a jar candle, I won’t throw it a way, so it ends up taking up space waiting for me to find a new use for it.
I’ve always been interested in candle making, but I honestly don’t know much about the correct way to do it. This is just my, for me, kind of chaotic, fun way of using up the leftover wax scraps and jars. If you try to join in my chaos, always take care with the melting, pouring and burning, make sure everything you use is safe for this usage and never leave anything burning or melting unattended.
My solution is to melt down the wax and make my own candles in the old jars. I bought this wick set for the wicks. I start by picking the jar I want to use and then putting in the same number of wicks that were originally in the jar.
For the candles in the above photo, the one on the left was originally a three wick candle, so it got three wicks. The one on the right was a yogurt jar, so I just guessed and went with one wick.
After the wicks are in place, I melt down any scrap wax I have and pour it in. Usually, I do this a little at a time as I finish other candles, rather than all at once. That gives it the cool sand art layered look.
With jar candles, to get the last bit of wax out, if I don’t pour it while it’s still melted from the last time I burned the candle, I set the jar on my coffee warmer (do not leave it unattended!). Wax melts just get melted as usual and poured into the jar.
I do try to keep the candles mostly the same type of wax. In the photo, the big candle on the left is made from candle wax ends. The yogurt jar candle is made of soy wax melts with a little of the tea light wax remnants added.
For scent, most of the candles I burn are in the same spicy or vanilla scent family. Since the leftover candle wax usually has a good bit of scent left, I don’t worry about adding my own. With the wax melts, I either just leave them as they are and have a mild to unscented candle, or I add a drop or two of an essential or fragrance oil to each layer as I pour it.
I don’t know if my chaos candle making method will help anyone else, but I have fun with it, and the resulting candles are pretty. It’s also a way to reduce waste and save money.
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My mom gave me several pairs of worn out denim jeans for me to play with several months ago. A few just happened to be my favorite style from Old Navy and in my size. Rather than cut them up for other projects, I decided to make them cute with patches and a little embroidery. Here’s the method I used for patching denim jeans.
Patching the knees
Prepping the denim jeans
In order to sew at the knees, you have to carefully rip out the stitches along one leg seam. You don’t have to rip out the entire seam, but you need to give yourself plenty of room above and below the knee to work. One seam is usually top-stitched. To make it easier all around, do NOT rip out the top-stitched seam.
After ripping out the seam, press the denim as smooth as possible with an iron.
Prepping the fabric
To patch the denim jeans, I chose to go underneath the rips and leave the torn edges visible. For the patches, I used cotton quilting material left over from sewing masks . I cut the fabric into squares a few inches bigger than I needed to patch. In the future, I will probably interface the fabric at this time. I knew I planned to interface everything at a later step, though, so I didn’t.
I pinned the fabric to the inside of the denim jeans.
Sewing the patches
Before sewing the crazy stitches shown in the photos, I sewed a single line of stitching all around the patch about a quarter of an inch inside the edge of the quilting fabric. This kept it in place while I did the crazy reinforcing stitches. After it was secure, I stitched in all different directions between the edge of the tear and slightly overlapping the first single line of stitching.
When jeans rip, usually the material around the tear is worn thin as well. In the past, I often left too much of the worn area without reinforcement. This results in new rips soon after the first repair. This time I reinforced at least an inch and a half around the tears.
Reinforcing the patched denim jeans with interfacing
After I was done stitching, I ironed interfacing to the inside. I did the interfacing last to act as a soft layer between my knees and the stitching. In retrospect, I probably should have interfaced the quilting cotton first, and then interfaced again at this step if I felt it was necessary. So far my jeans are holding up with the way I did it, though.
Sew it up
With the patches done, all that’s left is resewing the side seams. I just pinned it closed and sewed it back along the original stitching line. For the overcasting to finish the raw edges, I was lazy and used the overedge stitch on my sewing machine instead of switching to my serger. Zig-zag stitching along the edge to finish it would also work.
Embroidering the pocket
To embroider the pocket, I first removed the pocket from my jeans. Since it’s too small to hoop, I hooped tear away stabilizer alone and secured the pocket to the stabilizer with a glue stick. I used my Damask Rose embroidery pattern for the embellishment.
After the embroidery machine was done working its magic, I removed the stabilizer and replaced the pocket on my jeans using a heavy denim thread in a close shade to the original thread.
Simple, right? Actually, I tried to do that, messed up the hook timing on my Kenmore sewing machine AGAIN within the first few stitches and had to move to my backup vintage Montgomery Ward Signature machine. It took a few minutes of fiddling with the settings, but once I got it set up correctly it sewed through the heavy denim layers like butter.
In all fairness to my Kenmore, I did probably deserve it this time, between the crazy reinforcement stitches and then trying to sew through multiple layers of denim with thick thread. At least this time it let me reset the hook timing without much fuss.
Have you gotten more acquainted with your sewing machine lately? I’d love to see your projects in the comments.
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I wrap my soaps in fabric because it looks nice, it allows the soap to breathe (read here for why), and because it feels better than plastic. I often wonder what happens to the wrapping. I’m sure there are some that toss it. I know of one person who collects the fabric for quilts. For those of you who, like me, don’t want to throw away something that could be useful but don’t know what to do with it, I have a tutorial for a drawstring pouch, just for you.
This is done with the wrapping from one of my soaps, but you could make it in any size you like.
Cloth wrapper from soap (roughly 8×11 inches)
Jute string from soap (about 29 inches)
Needle or Sewing machine
Safety pin or Bodkin
First, iron your fabric flat. Then, fold down a long edge about 3/4 of an inch to one inch and press. This is for the casing. It doesn’t have to be super precise.
Sew a straight seam along the bottom of the flap to form the casing. All the sewing can be done by hand or machine. I have no time or patience, so I choose machine. Fold your material in half with right sides together like a book.
The fold is at the bottom of this photo.
Next, starting just below the casing seam, sew down the side and across the bottom. I use anywhere from a 1/4 to 1/2 inch seam allowance for this. Again, it doesn’t have to be precise.
With scissors, clip the bottom corners, being careful not to cut your stitching. You could probably skip this step, but it helps the corners look square and crisp. Turn your bag right side out.
Now it’s time to thread the string. Tie one end of the string to a safety pin, large paper clip, or attach a small bodkin. This makes it easier to work it through the casing. Thread it through the casing, safety pin first.
Once you get the string to the other side, remove your safety pin or other tool and adjust the string so that the ends are even.
Knot the ends together once or twice to keep it from coming out.
Ta-da! It’s done! Perfect for organizing your purse, storing jewelry or other small items, or as a small gift bag.
Or holding your favorite bar of soap.
Tutorials are always a little complicated to write because it’s easy to overlook small steps in things you do frequently. If something is unclear, please ask. 🙂
If you have any other creative uses for a SubEarthan Cottage soap wrapper, I would love to hear it!
Lately Christopher and I have been talking a lot about fashion. It started as a discussion about not being able to find comfortable clothes, especially pants (trousers for British English speakers) and how hard it is to find clothing that goes against the trends. Being crafty, we explored making our own clothing. The cost of fabric, supplies, time it takes to cut and sew all highlighted how impossible it is to produce clothing ethically at the low prices charged for much ready-to-wear clothing. That doesn’t even take into account the raw materials that are used to make the fabric and problems with content, pesticides, sustainability, etc.
At the same time, like many, our budget, doesn’t allow us to spend a ton on clothes. We try to make the most of our clothing budget guilt-free by shopping thrift stores and second hand shops. That way we aren’t adding to the problem by purchasing new. Most thrift shops are charity-based, so our purchases help others. We often find better quality items than what we would otherwise be able to afford this way, too.
With thrift shopping, you’re not as limited by trends. If you’re looking for something in particular, unless it’s a common item, you’re still likely to come up empty handed. That has been our problem when it comes to comfortable men’s and boy’s pants. Both Finn and Christopher would prefer something a little roomier, like karate gi pants. Unfortunately, nothing like that has been in fashion since M.C. Hammer. That means it’s time to put my sewing machines to use.
Making a Pattern from Shorts
This summer, I started by trying to copy a pair of the cotton knit gym shorts they practically lived in, adding a gusset for comfort and mobility. I used to buy bulk bags of t-shirts from Thrift Town before they closed, so instead of using new fabric, I used some XL t-shirts I had on hand. That way, if things went horribly wrong I wouldn’t feel as bad.
I have zero experience with pattern making, so this was a learning experience. Here’s a brief overview of how I did it.
I laid the shorts inside out and folded in half, front to the inside, smoothing them as flat as possible. Then I traced them, adding about an inch all around. The inch is for seam allowance and to account for the fact that it’s impossible to get finished shorts to lay flat. I always err on the side of too big, because that is much easier to fix.
At the waistband, I measured the waistband and extended the pattern by that amount plus seam allowance above the waistband. This allows it to be folded down for elastic and a drawstring casing. At the hem, I extended the lines two times the width of the hem to allow enough fabric to fold and hem. On the pattern, I drew lines straight across to show where the finished hem and waistband hit on the original shorts for reference.
Then I folded them in half , backs to the inside and repeated the above steps since the back is cut differently than the front.
Drafting the Gusset
For the gusset, I drew kind of a triangle with the top point cut off. To do this evenly, I folded a piece of paper in half, drew a half inch line perpendicular to the fold, moved over about four inches and drew another perpendicular line measuring one and a half inches. Then I drew a straight line connecting the tops of the lines. I cut along the lines and opened it up to get my gusset pattern. Sewing the gusset in with the wider part at the crotch seam and using a half inch seam allowance results the gusset tapering down to a point.
Shorts to Pants
Shorts work for summer, but I needed to come up with a pants pattern for fall and winter. Chris suggested just making the shorts pattern longer, so I did by measuring the waist to floor measurement and extending my pattern the needed amount, including seam allowances.
I did this by taping the bottom of the pattern to a big piece of paper, sketching out the needed length and side seams and cutting it out.
Final Pants Result
My pattern isn’t perfect. I think I’ve tweaked it each time I’ve used it. Since the pants are made to be loose and flowy it hides the imperfections.
These are my first attempt. I made them with a linen blend, elastic and drawstring combo waistband and no pockets. I added side-seam pockets later.
My goal is to find or draft a few more basic, customizable patterns for pants and shirts that can be made in linen or a similar material. Then I can buy a bulk amount of undyed fabric and dye it as needed.
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One of my lovely nieces is learning to sew with a sewing machine. To help, I thought I would do a series of beginning sewing project tutorials. Today’s tutorial turns an old t-shirt into a market bag. I’m keeping it simple today, but in the future I’ll do a post on how to make it with and enclosed bottom seam and how to box the bottom. It’s a great way to turn t-shirts that you no longer wear into something useful. If you don’t have a sewing machine, you could even sew it by hand.
T-shirts with a high cotton content and no side seams work the best.
Thread in your choice of color.
Sewing machine set up with appropriate needle and bobbin threaded in your color choice.
Note: Ball point needles are generally the best for sewing with knits. This project does fine with an all-purpose needle, though, so use what you have.
Preparing the shirt:
Lay the shirt out flat and smooth out any wrinkles. Since this one is just to add to my Aldi bag stash, I didn’t worry too much about wrinkles.
Cut off the arms including the armhole seams.
Cut off the neck about 2-3 inches below the neckband. My shirt is pretty big, so I went three inches below the neckband. With smaller shirts you can do less.
Cut straight across the bottom of the shirt to remove the hem. The hemline is often uneven on t-shirts, so focus on keeping the shoulder seams lined up, the shirt smooth and cutting a straight line that removes all of the hem.
At this point, you should basically have turned the t-shirt into a tank top. Now, decide if you want your bag to look like plastic grocery sacks that have the handles at the top sides (so, your tank top with the bottom sewn closed), or if you want the handles at the top middle, like a purse or market tote.
For the grocery sack-style, turn your shirt inside out and lay it flat, just like a tank top again. For the purse/market tote, turn it inside out and match the shoulder seams and armholes together, then lay it flat. I’m making a market style tote, so you can see it in the photos.
Once everything is lined up, pin along the bottom to hold it in place.
Sewing the bag:
Many sewing machines have an assortment of stitches to use with knit fabric. They are useful for keeping the thread from breaking when the fabric stretches. On my machine, they are labeled “stretch” and shown in brown. Zig-zag stitches also work well on knits.
You could use a stretch or zig-zag stitch for the bottom of the bag. Since it really shouldn’t be stretching much, I usually stick with a regular straight stitch set to a long-ish length of 3.
Regardless of the type of stitch you choose, I recommend sewing across the bottom twice to make it nice and strong.
The seam allowance, or distance between the edge of the fabric and the stitches, doesn’t really matter that much as long as you keep it the same all the way across. For this bag, I used a 5/8 inch allowance, marked on the footplate of my machine. To keep a straight line, focus on keeping the fabric lined up with the guideline for the seam allowance rather than watching the needle.
At the start , sew about 2-3 stitches then backstitch to secure the stitching before continuing to sew to the end. At the end, backstitch another 2-3 stitches, then sew to the end and cut the threads. Repeat the seam as close to the original line of sewing as possible to make it nice and strong.
Turn the bag right side out. Since knit doesn’t unravel, you could stop there and be done. I like to sew around the arm and neck holes to reinforce the t-shirts original shoulder seams and give it a more finished look.
Finishing around the t-shirt arm and neck hole handles:
I usually use a serger for this, but it’s not necessary. On a sewing machine, I do like to use either a zig-zag or stretch stitch since there is going to be more stretch on the handles so a straight stitch might break.
This time, I’m using a zig-zag stitch, keeping the stitch length set at 3 and using about a 1/2 inch seam allowance. If your sewing machine has a free-arm, it can make it easier to sew around the armholes if you use it. Sew around each arm hole and the neck hole separately.
To start and finish the zig-zag, I backstitched like normal. It looks a little messy that way. You could leave extra thread at the beginning and end, pull the threads to the back side and tie knots to secure them if you want a cleaner look.
That’s it. You now have a purse or reusable bag from what used to be an old t-shirt. Don’t throw the t-shirt scraps away. I’ll post some creative uses for them soon!
To learn how to make this bag a little more polished, read my t-shirt bag upgrades post.
If you read through the tutorial and like the concept but don’t want to diy, I still have a few left in my shop on clearance here.
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This weekend we held a rather slow garage sale. It was still fun, though, and we met some nice people, including a gentleman who shares our fondness of TBI Suburbans.
Chris took full advantage of the time to create a few billboard art pieces he’s been picturing for months.
I think this is my favorite. I love the weathered door.
This is the one everyone slowed down to see. He may decide to shorten it from the bottom to make it more manageable. As it is, though, in the right space it is impressive.
This one just screams Americana. We held it up to see what it looks like on the outside of our house. I loved the pop of red against our brown. I can totally see this alongside other signs in rustic decor.
We needed a better way to organize our keys. I thought about using hooks and scrap wood to make something, but I didn’t have any hooks on hand. I did, however have an old license plate, clothespins and hot glue, so this is what resulted.
I used hot glue because I could remove the clothespins without much, if any damage to the license plate. So far it’s holding up well, but if I were to make another, I might use something more permanent now that I know the concept works. I’d also use a ruler to line up the pins. I had “help” from the two year old this time, so I had to work fast to keep the glue gun safely away from little fingers.
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